Sometimes you don’t realize how bad off you really are until after the fact, until you’ve come through the other side and look back in self-reflection and understanding. This is especially true in cases of addiction. It wasn’t just drugs or drink that I was addicted to. I was addicted to darkness. The kind that sucks you in and makes you question everything around you. Living everyday as a godless, cynical pessimist, depressed and deprived of any joy to be found in life. A monotonous drone, where everyday is only as distinguishable as the amount of alcohol and drugs that entered my system, warping my mind into a loop of dependence and rationalization that had no sound reason. I thought I was living beyond the bounds of a normal thought process, but in reality I was lost in the haze. I was living the life of The Weeknd in ‘House of Balloons’, and I relished in it.
It was during this time that I wrote a piece about how I couldn’t stand to listen to one of my all-time favorite projects, Acid Rap. A mixtape that once meant so much to me, and at the time, I pawned it off as too full of “cringe-worthy…optimism and brightness”. I even made a point of saying that I wasn’t depressed, that this “dark stage” was just a part of growing up and my jaded sense of self was a result of what I’d been through. But what had I been through? I was simply wallowing in my drug habit and self-induced reclusion, thinking that it would somehow turn itself into some form of greater art that never actually materialized.
Despite my new misgivings surrounding Acid Rap, I participated fully in the excitement that surrounded Chance the Rapper‘s next project. I figured that, like its predecessor had done, it would capture what I was going through at the time, enveloping feelings in the music that I could easily relate to. But when it released, I realized Chance and I had drifted completely apart. Here was a young artist who was fueled by blatant faith in a God I didn’t care about and an unwavering optimism I didn’t share. His rose-colored outlook was the complete opposite of my bleak darkness. I felt myself become uneasy listening to it, as if I could literally feel the gloomy spirit inside of me wiggle with agitation at the very thought of cheerfulness and worship. How could I relate to a song like “Blessings” or “Angels” when I felt so dead on the inside? I couldn’t. “We don’t do the same drugs no more“, Chance would sing, but really, we didn’t have the same frame of mind anymore, and the massive amount of drugs in my system helped in fueling that shift. The artist/fan relationship had been severed. So I threw it to the waste bin and never gave it much of a second listen, claiming that Chance had become too “gospel-y and religious” for my taste.
It wasn’t until nearly two months later that I revisited Coloring Book. In those two months since its initial release, I had crashed into rock bottom with the speed of an asteroid. The drugs and alcohol could no longer cut it, and I began to question whether or not I wanted to continue on at all. It’s in these moments where people start grasping for any sort of flotation device they can find, even one they haven’t reached for in years. A last resort. Something to keep from going under, and I was on my last breath.
I hadn’t been to church in seven years, hadn’t prayed in nearly that long, and when questioned on religion, I would throw it to the side, saying I wanted to focus on the real world. However, my “real world” was on fire, and in that darkest of moments, I reached out like I had been taught to when I was just a little hell-raiser.
But this isn’t an article about how I found God. That can be saved for another time and place. This is an article about how Chance the Rapper helped in saving me from myself. After attempting a full 180 on life, I revisited Coloring Book, looking for the very joy and encouragement I had originally shunned it for. What I found was a complete work of music so uplifting it brought me to tears. This time around, I wasn’t put off by the shining positivity or holy assurance, but cherished it and embraced it fully. Here was a young artist who was fueled by blatant faith in a God that I was finally starting to trust again and an unwavering optimism that I was beginning to share and strive for. His rose-colored outlook shone on me, helping in bringing me out of the darkness and into a new meaningful life. I could now relate to the outpouring of “Blessings” he so gleefully sang about. I could see my own “Angels” in my day-to-day life. And I loved it! The artist/fan relationship was reborn, stronger than ever, and now I don’t see it disappearing again.
Coloring Book has become a tool I use to stave off the darkness. It’s become a holy book of sorts, turning to it whenever I need a shot of joy and faith, letting it guide me to happiness. For so long, I was lost in the jungle like Simba after the death of Mufasa. Chance is my hog and my meerkat. Coloring Book is my hakuna matata. I am ready for the rest of my blessings, and I have Chance to thank for helping me renew a positive outlook in my life. I know the hard times aren’t gone forever, but moving forward I have a much stronger ally on my side, both in faith and in music. So who knows what we’ll conquer together next! Maybe I’ll give Satan a swirly.